Mechanics’ Magazine (London) 1839 - Letters on the new Photography

compiled, with notes, by R. Derek Wood (Midley History of early Photography)

The interesting correspondence and editorial items that were published in the Mechanics’ Magazine in London through 1839 have most unaccountably escaped attention by historians of photography. Maybe this is just another example of the laziness and lack of adventure of too many historians of the subject who have gone for the simple option of taking over the texts and parameters long set by earlier writers?! Maybe somewhere can be found an individual researcher in whose neglected article the publications in Mechanics’ Magazine and their authors has been already studied. I hope so, for it is a neglected area that does warrant attention regarding the beginnings of photography in 1839, and ideas put forward in Liverpool in the mid-1820s. Because of the areas of speculation put forward by the writers some indication is provided of the state of knowledge of the chemistry of light that existed when the announcement was made in January 1839 of Daguerre’s discovery.
The contribution of Sir Anthony Carlisle, his comments about the meeting at the Royal Institution, and Thomas Wedgwood, is noteworthy in that his response has indeed been incorporated into the standard histories of photography. But what of the Liverpool-based story of the 1820s of Thomas Oxley, John Turmeau, and Egerton Smith? No matter, read it below.


9 February 1839 — Report from Paris, with editorial comment
9 February 1839 — Anthony Carlisle
9 February 1839 — Thomas Oxley (1)
16 March 1839 — Egerton Smith
16 March 1839 — Report from The Athenæum concerning Niepce
30 March 1839 — G. Cumberland (Bristol)
30 March 1839 — Thomas Oxley (2)
(28 Sept. 1839 — Daguerre’s Process)
2 November 1839 — Thomas Oxley (3)
2 November 1839 — Patenting of Daguerre’s Process (reprinted from The Athenæum)

A note on Further Research

Mechanics’ Magazine (London), Saturday, 9 February 1839, Vol. 30 (No. 809), pp. 327-8
[British Library shelf-mark PP1705 ]

Considerable interest has been excited amongst the lovers of the fine arts, by the announcement that a method had been invented by a M. Daguerre of Paris, for fixing the beautiful representations of objects obtained in the Camera Obscura upon a surface prepared in a certain manner, so as to form a perfect picture. By some, the discovery of this use of sunshine, was thought to be moonshine, but we are happy to say it appears likely to be turned to some practical purpose. We subjoin an extract from the Constitutionnel, giving an account of the reception the announcement of the discovery has met with at the Académie, and by the Parisian public.

“At the last sitting of the Academy of Sciences, M. Arago announced one of the most important discoveries in the fine arts that has distinguished the present century, the author of which has already acquired universal reputation by his miraculous diorama — M. Daguerre. It is well known that certain chemical substances of chlorate of silver, have the property of changing their colour by the mere contact of light ; and it is by a combination of this nature, that M. Daguerre has succeeded in fixing upon paper prepared with it the rays that are directed on the table of the Camera Obscura and renderng the optical tableau permanent. The exact representation of whatever objects this instrument is directed to is, as everybody is aware, thrown down with vivid colours upon the white prepared to receive them, and the rays of light that are thus reflected have the power of acting in the way above alluded to on chlorate of silver, or certain preparations of it. In this manner an exact representation of light and shade of whatever object may be wished to be viewed is obtained with the precise accuracy of nature herself, and it is stated to have all the softness of a fine aqua-tint engraving, M. Daguerre had made this discovery some years ago, but he had not then succeeded in making the alteration of colour permanent on the chemical substance. This main desideratum he has now accomplished, and in this manner has been able, among other instances, to make a permanent chemical representation of the Louvre, taken from the Pont des Arts. M. Arago, in commenting upon this most extraordinary discovery, observed, that a patent would be by no means able to preserve the rights of the discoverer sufficiently to reward him for his efforts ; and he therefore urged the propriety of an application being made to the legislature for a grant of public money as a recompense. M. Biot, on the same occasion, compared M. Daguerre’s discovery to the retina of the eye, the objects being represented on one and the other surface with almost equal accuracy.
“What is the secret of the invention?  What is the substance endowed with such astonishing sensibility to the rays of light, that it not only penetrates itself with them, but preserves their impression ; performs at once the function of the eye and of the optic nerve — the material instrument of sensation, itself? In good sooth we know nothing about it. Figure to yourself, says a Parisian contemporary, a mirror which after having received your image, gives you back you portrait, indelible as a picture, and a much more exact resemblance. Such is the miracle invented by M. Daguerre. His pictures do not reproduce colour, but only outline, the lights and shadows of the model. They are not paintings, they are drawings; but drawings pushed to a degree of perfection that art never can reach.
“One has heard of writing by steam, but "drawing by sunshine" (or moonshine) is a novelty for which the world is indebted to M. Daguerre, of Paris, the diorama painter. M. Arago and M. Biot, who have made reports to the Academy of Sciences on the effect of M. Daguerre’s discovery, have given up all attempts to define its causes. The complaisance of the inventor has permitted us to see these chefs-d’oeuvre, where nature has delineated herself. At every picture placed before our eyes we were in admiration. What perfection of outline — what effects of chiaro oscuro — what delicacy — what finish! But how can we be assured that this is not the work of a clever draughtsman ? As a sufficient answer, M. Daguerre puts a magnifying glass in our hand. We then see the minutest folds of the drapery, the lines of a landscape, invisible to the naked eye. In the mass of buildings accessories of all kinds, imperceptible accidents, of which the view of Paris from the Pont des Arts is composed, we distinguish the smallest details, we count the stones of the pavement, we see the moisture produced by rain, we read the sign of a shop. Every thread of the luminous tissue has passed from the object to the surface retaining it. The impression of the image takes place with greater or less rapidity, according to the intensity of the light ; it is produced quicker at noon than in the morning or evening, in a summer than in a winter. M. Daguerre has hitherto made his experiments only in Paris; and in the most favourable circumstances they have always been too slow to obtain complete results, except on still or inanimate nature. Motion escapes him, or leaves only vague and uncertain traces. It may be presumed that the sun of Africa would give him instantaneous images of natural objects in full life and action.”

The invention has since been the subject of discussion at the Royal Institution in London; and we have been told that in some of the specimens exhibited, so perfect was the resemblance of the picture produced to the original, that the very threads and fibres of a person’s garments were plainly shown. The invention, if it produce results at all approaching to what has been stated, is a most important one; and we are happy to be able to claim it as of English origin. The French must content themselves with the merit of applying it to practical purposes — no trifling honour in these utilitarian days.
To substantiate our claim we append a letter which we have received from Sir Anthony Carlisle, stating that he performed experiments to the same effect forty years ago; also a communication from our correspondent Mr. Oxley, claiming the credit of the idea for himself and others ; but the date of their experiments is far subsequent to those of Sir Anthony.

Mechanics’ Magazine (London), Saturday, 9 February 1839, Vol. 30 (No. 809), pp. 329

Sir,— At the evening meeting holden at the Royal Institution on Friday last, several specimens of shaded impressions were exhibited, produced by the new French Camera. The outlines, as well as the interior forms of the objects, were faintly pictured, and hence the application of this method of impressing accurate designs may become disregarded after public curiosity subsides.

Having, about forty years ago, made several experiments with my lamented friend, Mr. Thomas Wedgewood, to obtain and fix the shadows of objects by exposing the figures painted on glass, to fall upon a flat surface of shamoy leather wetted with nitrate of silver, and fixed in a case made for a stuffed bird, we obtained a temporary image or copy of the figure on the surface of the leather, which, however, was soon obscured by the effects of light. It would be serviceable to men of research if failing experiments were more often published, because the repetition of them would be thus prevented. The new method of depicting by a camera, promises to be valuable for obtaining exact representations of fixed and still objects, although at present they seem only to possess the correct elements for a finished drawing.
Few artists of competent skill addict themselves to drawing natural objects, although the value of such designs wholly depends on exactness. For anatomical purposes designs should be faithfully correct, and the new instrument and new method are well suited to those purposes.
Among the many splendid plates devoted to illustrate anatomy, none are so truly executed as those of Cheselden, which were taken by a Camera Obscura.
Your obliged reader,
Langham-place, Jan. 30,1839.

Mechanics’ Magazine (London), Saturday, 9 February 1839, Vol. 30 (No. 809), pp. 329-330

Sir,— In No. 775 of your valuable Magazine for 16th June, 1838, I showed in the most ample manner how very difficult it is to determine the merits of the originality and priority of inventions and discoveries, and I now again respectfully beg leave to call your attention to this subject. I have just bought a copy of a paper containing an account of M. Daguerre’s invention or discovery of a means of producing drawings by the action of light. I certainly congratulate that gentleman on being, as 1 believe, the first to bring such a project into full operation ; but I cannot compliment him on being, by many years, the first or earliest projector. This honour I believe is due to England and to Englishmen, and I claim it for myself and two other gentlemen, viz. Mr. John Turneau, a very excellent artist and eminent portrait painter, the inventor and patentee of the Liverpool lamps, so much celebrated before the introduction of gas lights ; the other, Egerton Smith, Esq., Editor and Proprietor of the Liverpool Mercury. I scarcely need say that both these gentlemen are highly esteemed by all that have the honour of their acquaintance, and universally respected, not only in Liverpool, but generally throughout Lancashire, for their integrity, talents, and urbanity. I was for upwards of eight years, during the whole of my residence in Liverpool, on the strictest terms of friendship and intimacy with them, and we have often met for the purpose of discussing various interesting inventions and discoveries. Mr. Turneau in 1823 or 1824, lent me Senefelder’s large quarto work on the Discovery and Practice of Lithography, with which I was much amused and greatly interested ; in fact, I was wonderfully well pleased with Senefelder’s discovery, which forcibly reminded me of a project I had conceived a few years before ; for having then a moderate knowledge of chemistry, I was well acquainted with the fact, that certain chemical preparations, especially those of silver, were subject to great changes of colour from the effect of the rays of light. I communicated my ideas on this subject to the gentlemen I have named, proposing that a camera obscura or similar optical means should be made to throw the images of the objects to be delineated upon paper saturated with the chemical preparation. Mr. Smith and Mr. Turneau both told me that they had long before I mentioned it, entertained ideas of the possibility of accomplishing such a thing; and indeed I have not the least reason to doubt them, for each of them may be, and is considered as being, a universal genius, familiar with every useful and curious invention. They observed to me, that as many chemical substances were acted upon by light, it might be attended with considerable trouble to fiud out which was the best to be used for this purpose. I myself proposed using a solution of nitrate of silver, or lunar caustic in water, and to prepare the paper by moistening it with this liquid, for I had many years before used this as a marking ink for linen, and had observed that if this liquid was exposed to the light it became black and less useful for marking with. I considered that the paper might be dried in the dark and kept close shut up until wanted, and that when it had been acted upon, and had received the desired impressions of objects by means of the camera obscura, it should be withdrawn therefrom in the dark, or as little as possible exposed to the light until it had been immersed in an alkaline solution, or a solution of muriate of soda, or saturated with spirit varnish, to fix the tints and prevent further change from the action of the light. As I had no camera obscura, I did not proceed with my intended experiments, and have ever since, from various circumstances, been prevented from following up my project, although Mr. Turneau and myself discussed the matter with so much earnestness as to argue which room in his house would be the best to place the camera, and to try the experiments in. Mr. Turneau then resided in Lord Street, Liverpool, and if he should see this communication it cannot fail to remind him of the whole affair. Thus you see, Mr. Editor, there are three Englishmen to a certainty, and perhaps more of our countrymen who projected making use of the rays of light to delineate drawings or likenesses of objects long before M. Daguerre.*
I am, Sir, yours, &c.
THOS. OXLEY, Teacher.
3, Elizabeth-place, Westminster-road,
February 2, 1839.

* We reserve a further communication of Mr. Oxley’s for another occasion.— ED. M. M.

Mechanics’ Magazine (London), Saturday, 16 March 1839, Vol. 30 (No. 814), pp. 428-9

[This letter dated 6 March from Egerton Smith (energetic editor of the Liverpool Mercury), had been already published the previous week in his own weekly newspaper: Liverpool Mercury, Friday 8 March 1839, Vol. XXIX, No. 1452, p.78f]

Sir,— I was somewhat amused and still more astonished on perusing, in your Magazine of the present month, a letter addressed to you by Mr. Thomas Oxley, teacher, on the subject of M. Daguerre’s method of obtaining fac-similes of objects by the action of the solar light. Before I proceed to rectify the strange mistake which the writer has committed with respect to myself, I shall transcribe a portion of his letter. Mr. Oxley’s object is to prove that he and some other Englishmen had conceived the idea of obtaining fac-similes of different objects by the action of the rays of the sun long before M. Daguerre had made those experiments which have lately been announced in the French journals. He proceeds as follows :—
“This honour, I believe, is due to England and to Englishmen, and I claim it for myself and two other gentlemen, namely, Mr. John Turneau, (Turmeau,) a very excellent artist and eminent portrait painter, the inventor and patentee of the Liverpool lamps, so much celebrated before the introduction of gas lights, — the other Egerton Smith, Esq., a proprietor and editor of the Liverpool Mercury,” &c.

Mr. Oxley, after some personal compliments which it is unnecessary here to repeat, states that about the year 1823, having then a moderate knowledge of chemistry, he was aware that certain chemical preparations, especially those of silver, were subject to great changes of colour from the effect of the rays of light, and he communicated his ideas on the subject to the gentlemen just named, &c. Mr. Smith, and Mr. Turneau (Turmeau) both told him that they had long “entertained ideas of the possibility of accomplishing such a thing” Mr. Oxley adds that he suggested to Mr. Turneau (Turmeau) and Mr. Smith that the camera obscura might be advantageously used to facilitate the process.
Now, Sir, when I inform you that although I have not been an inattentive observer of what has been going forwards in the scientific world, I never had the most remote idea of the phenomenon in question until I met with a notice of the experiments of M. Daguerre in the French journals,— you may judge of my astonishment at finding my name so conspicuously blazoned forth in your pages ; and as I do not wish to “strut in borrowed plumes,” I lose no time in disclaiming all right to the compliment so unexpectedly bestowed upon me. Mr. Oxley has mistaken me for Mr. Charles Seward, who was a partner with Mr. John Turmeau, of this town, in the Liverpool Patent Lamp.

These gentlemen, it seems, in the prosecution of their chemical investigations, had made some experiments with a preparation of silver, and had succeeded in obtaining very faint outlines of different objects from the action of the sun’s rays, admitted through an aperture in. a window shutter j but finding these solar delineations very evanescent, and not being able to fix them, they pursued their experiments no further. Mr. Turmeau has assured me, however, that he never conceived the idea of using the camera obscura in the process, and that he has no recollection of any hint of such appropriation having been suggested by Mr. Oxley.

As far as the mere knowledge that certain preparations of silver spread out on a surface of paper, metal, &c., were susceptible of receiving impressions from the solar light, your respectable and intelligent correspondent, Sir Anthony Carlisle, has stated in your last publication, that he and the late Mr. Wedgwood were acquainted with the fact forty years ago. The discovery of this property of light would be of little value, unless permanence can be given to the outlines thus obtained ; and it seems that M. Daguerre and Mr. Talbot have both succeeded in supplying the desideratum. As for the claim to priority of discovery, we must leave that point to be decided by those gentlemen themselves.*
The insertion of this explanation in your valuable Magazine will oblige,
Sir, yours respectfully,
March 6, 1839.

* [footnote, at bottom of p. 428 and 429, added by Egerton Smith]
It appears, from an article in the last Literary Gazette, that the first hint of this discovery was communicated to M. Daguerre by M. Neipce, who died a few years ago. M. Daguerre intimates, however, that the suggestion was so vague that it cost him long and persevering labour to bring it to its present perfection. The correspondent of the Gazette, who appears to have clearly established the claim of priority for M. Neipce, observes, “I do not think that M. Neipce could have given such a very imperfect idea fifteen years ago, as the specimens M. Neipce brought and exhibited in 1827, in England, (and some of them are still in my possession,) are quite as perfect as those productions of M. Daguerre described in the French newspapers of 1839.” As far as we can gather, from the rather scanty information now before the public on this subject, there seems to be considerable difference, both in the process and effect, between the methods adopted by M. Daguerre and Mr. Talbot. The following paragraph on the subject is derived, we believe, from some of the French journals :— ”The scientific folk of Paris are busied in endeavouring to find out the composition of the plate by which M. Daguerre is enabled to obtain an exact representation of any object or scene. This plate, placed in a camera obscura, receives from the impingement of light certain impressions, varying according to the intensity; so that, in about a quarter of an hour, the cathedral of Notre Dame, for example, engraves itself perfectly on the plate. It was at first, supposed to be the chlorure of silver, known to be susceptible of change from the effect of light; hut on this substance light produces shade, and vice versa, nor is the effect permanent. On M. Daguerre’s composition, on the contrary, dark spots produce corresponding shade, and that in every gradation of tint. The moon’s ray had no effect on the chlorure of silver; it has on M. Daguerre’s composition, and reproduces its own image perfectly.” — E. S. [Egerton Smith]

Mechanics’ Magazine (London), Saturday, 16 March 1839, Vol. 30 (No. 814), pp. 429-430

(From the Athenæum.) [9 march 1839, p. 187]
During the discussions which took place in Paris respecting the priority of the discovery of M. Daguerre and Mr. Talbot, the name of M. Niepce was incidentally mentioned as the person to whom the former was indebted for the first idea of fixing the images represented in a camera obscura. Subsequently, M. Niepce’s claim to honour has been more fully admitted ; and this has been singularly confirmed by Mr. Bauer, in a letter published in the Literary Gazette. Mr. Bauer therein states, that, in 1827, he became acquainted with M. Niepce, then on a visit to his brother at Kew; that M. Niepce made known to him, and others, that he had discovered a means of “fixing, permanently, the image of any object by the spontaneous action of light,” and exhibited several specimens. That, by the advice of Mr. Bauer, he, M. Niepce, drew up a memoir on the subject, dated 8th December, 1827, which he forwarded to the Royal Society, but which was subsequently returned, because it is contrary to the rules of the Society to read a paper referring to a process which is not disclosed. That shortly after, and when about to return to France, M. Niepce presented Mr. Bauer with specimens of the newly-discovered art, which are now in his possession. Thus, then, the question of priority, as between England and France, is settled beyond all dispute *

[footnote at bottom of column]
* not so. The Editor of the Athenæum and these other claimants to the invention of photogenic drawing, appear to have overlooked the claim made by Sir Anthony Carlisle for himself and Mr. Wedgwood, as having performed experiments upon the subject 40 years ago, many years prior to the dates of the evidence of the earliest of these new claimants. We refer our readers to Sir Anthony’s letter, No. 809, p. 329 ED, M. M.

at the same time, we must observe, that the processes of M. Daguerre and Mr. Talbot are manifestly different. As to the relative merit of M. Niepce and M. Daguerre, there is no doubt, in our opinion, that, though the first idea was suggested, and the earlier specimens produced by M. Niepce, yet that he was long and zealously assisted by M. Daguerre, who had been for many years engaged in similar pursuits ; and there is legal proof that, so early as 1829, they entered into an agreement, by which they declare themselves ”associιs pour exploiter le procιdι ΰ l’invention duquel ils avaient concurru l’un et l’autre.” Mr. Bauer is, indeed, in error, when he states that the specimens presented to him, in 1827, by M. Niepce, are quite as perfect as those produced by M. Daguerre, and described in the French papers in 1839. The specimens in the possession of Mr. Bauer, and others, given at the time to Mr. Cussels, of Richmond, have been obligingly submitted to our examination. They may be divided into—pictures copied from engravings, and pictures copied from nature. The best specimens of a copy from an engraving belongs to Mr. Cussels ; and, though somewhat different in its style and general effects, it is not, considering that it has been exposed for more than twelve years to all the casualties of dust and damp, much inferior to similar copies shown to us, when lately in Paris, by M. Daguerre. Mr. Bauer possesses the only copy of a picture taken from nature ; but this, so far from being equal to the specimens produced by M. Daguerre in 1839, is even more shadowy and indistinct than any of the earlier specimens of the art which we saw in Paris, and immeasurably inferior to the latter works. That the early process of M. Niepce, and the present one of M. Daguerre, are essentially the same, though greatly improved, we cannot doubt, As M. Daguerre has good and sufficient reason for not making his secret known for the present, the pictures exhibited by him are covered to the very edge with paper ; notwithstanding which, we came to the conclusion that the material was either pewter highly polished, or washed with silver ; and all the specimens in the possession of Mr. Bauer and Mr. Cussels are on pewter, apparently covered with a very thin coating of transparent varnish ; but whether this varnish was applied before receiving the impressions, or subsequently, to fix them, is not obvious : we incline to the latter opinion. The most curious fact, in relation to this discovery, yet remains to be told. It would appear, considering the character of the pictures, all but impossible that impressions from them could be multiplied after the manner of an engraving ; M. Daguerre, indeed, stated to us that it was impossible, and it is but reasonable to believe that he is as fully informed of the nature and extent of the discoveries as M. Niepce himself. Yet, in 1827, M. Niepce not only declared that it was possible, but produced specimens of such multiplied copies : and Mr. Bauer has now in his possession, not only copies of engravings, fixed permanently by the action of light, not only scenes from nature, but metallic plates engraved, and engravings copied from them: and he understood and believes that no engraving tool was used, but that the drawings were fixed by the action of light, and the plates subsequently engraved by a chemical process, discovered by M. Niepce. If so, the greatest secret of all remains yet to be made public, and is, we believe, as unknown to M. Daguerre as to others.

Mechanics’ Magazine (London), Saturday, 30 March 1839, Vol. 30 (No. 816), pp. 454

Sir, — In order to obtain real images from the sun’s beams, concentrated by refraction through a convex lens, into a dark chamber or camera obscura, we must receive them on a paper prepared for the purpose, whose colour is dark, and whose material is of a nature to suffer absorption from the rays of light, in a just proportion to their intensity. Now all the methods of producing pictures, hitherto promulgated in England, are the reverse of this, as nitrate of silver, or the lunar caustic dissolved, gives shadows for lights; we must, therefore, seek some medium of a different nature, such as stains from vegetable bodies, or coloured pigments ground up with volatile essences, the shadows from which, after the lights have been created by absorption, may be fixed by re-agents; such a sensitive paper would secure a permanent design from nature by means of the sun’s reflected rays ; for we know their power in extracting stains of smoke or dirt from ancient engravings when placed under water about a quarter of an inch, so as to be acted on at noon by refraction ; hence, I conclude, that when our sympathetic paper receives the rays of light in a moist state, the dark colouring matter will be more readily discharged. Observe, also, that the camera must be without a mirror, and the lens a compound one, to correct distortion. My camera, or box, is constructed as follows :—

The compound lens is about one inch and a half in diameter, composed of two plane con vex lenses nearly touching each other by their convex sides ; its focus is two inches and a quarter, and it is inserted into a box four inches square, whose opposite end is open, and cut off exactly at the focal point of the image ; to the open end of the box there is a cover, like that of a canister, whose sides are half an inch deep ; to the bottom of this cover I affix the sensitive paper, so that when it is put on, it exactly comes up to the focal point of the lens, which also has an outside cover, only to be taken off when presented to the object in sunshine intended to be represented : in order to examine the progress made by the influx of light, the cover of the larger end may be removed from time to time without altering the position of the camera, and quickly replaced, until satisfied with the effect ; and thus, having your sympathetic papers all of the size of the inside of the cover, you may change them as often as you please, in trying your experiments; finally, carry them home in the closed camera, with both ends shut, whose interior, I need scarcely add, should be carefully blackened. But, after all, until we shall have discovered a dark pigment that can quickly be absorbed by light, concentrated from the reflection of natural bodies, we shall not have arrived at that perfection now sought after, in consequence of the reports of M. Daguerre’s extraordinary success.

The liberal disclosures of Mr. Talbot have set many people to work here, in copying lace, prints, and leaves, by means of the direct rays of the sun, through the glass of windows, and his sensitive paper ; this may be serviceable in mechanic arts, and is very amusing, for they are so speedily effected that the earth’s motion can never disturb them. But, before we can get real photogenic pictures from reflection, we shall have numerous disappointments to encounter, which time and patience alone can conquer, and, therefore, the more hands are employed the better, and such portable machinery as I here recommend.
I am, &c.,
Bristol, March 15, 1S39.

Mechanics’ Magazine (London), Saturday, 30 March 1839, Vol. 30 (No. 816), pp. 454-5

Sir,— In my communication of the 2d February, 1839, which appeared in No. 809 of your valuable publication, I wrote in haste and from memory only, and therein very briefly pointed out how the paper might be rendered susceptible of being acted upon by the rays of light, and how the impressions produced thereby might be permanently fixed thereon. I will now, by your permission, transcribe the results of some of my experiments, which will enable any persons desirous of photogenic drawings to prepare their own paper by such methods as will answer their wishes in the most satisfactory manner.
First Way. — Moisten the paper first with a solution of muriate of soda in proportion of one of the muriate to ten or twelve times its weight of water ; then dry it, and when dry moisten it equally over with a solution of the nitrate of silver, and then dry it again before the fire ; let this be done by candle light, for day light would immediately act upon it ; this should be done five times, alternately with the solutions of muriate of soda and of silver, and dried each time, th last time being with nitrate of silver.
Second Way. — Moisten the paper with muriatic acid diluted with water to the strength of strong vinegar, and then dry it as aforesaid after each time of moistening; do this four times, and each time after being dried meisten it with the solution of the nitrate of silver, drying it also each time after the nitrate has been spread over its surface.
Third Method,. — Moisten the paper with the solution of the nitrate of silver, and dry it before the fire ; do this three or four times, and being dried tbe last time after silvering, then moisten it well with the diluted muriatic acid, or chlorine, as the French call it, and then dry the paper. I have several other methods, but these will be found satisfactorily to answer the purpose.
Proportion of nitrate of silver; one dram, or sixty grains to an ounce of soft water, and I would not advise using less than 45 grains of the nitrate of silver to the aforesaid quantity of water.
These papers began to change colour in a few seconds after being exposed to the solar light, and in fifteen minutes became of a slate colour, or nearly of an indigo blue, and in two hours were nearly black.

Remarks.— Frequent moistening in the manner aforesaid, though it wonderfully increases the susceptibility to change colour, yet the often wiping of the paper, whether with a sponge or otherwise, destroys the smoothness by opening the pores thereof. The best way would be to dip the paper in the solutions, and to absorb the superfluous moisture by pressing the moistened paper between two sheets of white blotting paper. I have no doubt that Bath drawing board would answer, or still more solid substances, such as the metallic plates which I mentioned in my communication sent to you six weeks ago, but not yet published ;*

[editorial footnote] * The passage which Mr. Oxley refers to, follows
It was overlooked inadvertently, in consequence of being appended to a communication upon the subject of “Mechanical Flying”—
“It is well known that some substances are powerfully acted upon by the rays of light, whereby some are precipitated from the menstruum that holds them in solution, some are oxygenized or corroded, and others are, to a certain extent, de-oxygenized, by the action of the rays of light; seeing this is the case I would not despair, had I but time to devote to a series of experiments in going so far as to find out a menstruum, or composition, which being spread over the surface of a plate of steel, zinc, or copper, and then having the pictures of the objects thrown upon it by the camera obscura, or other optical apparatus, the plate would be etched or corroded by the composition according to the intensity of the light and shade, whereby chemistry and optics may be made to supersede, and far surpass, the laborious process ofengraving, as hitherto practised. I can see nothing here to be doubted of, it will be certainly brought to pass by somebody, for we know that machines have already been made which perform what has always been considered as mental operations, and why not succeed in making nature operate on herself, and become her own artist?” ------

for it is evident that porous substances, such as paper, are not the best adapted to receive the very minute impressions which are required to give faithful delineations of natural objects.
For fixing the objects when drawn by the camera, the proportion of muriate of soda or common salt may be one part to about six or eight times its weight of water, in which the photogenic drawings may be immersed and then the superfluous moisture wiped off, or absorbed by blotting paper as aforesaid ; or if left to soak for half an hour or an hour, the effect will be still better, and then dried as aforesaid.

I had intended to have forwarded this, or a similar communication, within a few days after I had sent my last to you, but the pressure of business has prevented me. I have seen nothing of Mr. Talbot’s communications nor any others, except what has appeared in your journal. The first piece of Mr. Talbot’s appeared in No. 810 of your Magazine, but did not give the process, which more fully determined me to do this myself, as I had expected that Mr. Talbot had intended to keep the processes secret. And now, Mr. Editor, that you have seen what Mr. Talbot’s processes are both for preparing and for fixing the images thereon after they had been delineated by the camera obscura, you will find, on the perusal of my paper which appeared in No. 809 of your journal, that that communication contains in a few words the sum and substance of Mr. Talbot’s processes, and that four or five weeks previous to my seeing any thing of that gentleman’s method, which appeared, and where I saw it for the first time, in No. 813 of your Magazine. In conclusion it may be well to remark that this kind of drawing paper will be found very expensive, as a dram of nitrate of silver, which costs a shilling, will not be more than sufficient for the preparation of a moderate sized sheet of drawing paper.
I remain, sir,
Yours very respectfully,
No. 3, Elizabeth-place, Westminster Road,
14th March, 1839.

(We have received another communication from Mr. Oxley in reply to the letter of Mr. Egerton Smith, which appeared in our 814th number; We have only room for the following extract, but which, we think, is quite sufficient for the vindication of Mr. Oxley.) — ED. M. M.
“I hope you will permit me to reconcile the apparent discrepances of that communication. I cannot boast myself of having the most tenacious memory in the world, but at all events my memory is as likely to serve me as faithfully as those of Mr. Smith or Mr. Turmeau can serve them, they being my senior by some 15 or 2 years each ; and it is by no means unlikely that these gentlemen may, in the space of 16 years, have forgotten what I then communicated to them. But in regard to Mr. Smith, no person could scarcely he quicker at conceiving ingenious inventions, and I believe it possible that within the space of 30 years he may have conceived as many nota1 li projects, but from the great multiplicity oν business pressing continually on his attention, (although he might have thought much of them for a time), they have, one after another, sunk into oblivion, and have long since been obliterated from the tablet of his memory.
“It may be, that Mr. Smith has even forgotten that I was a frequent visitor at his house for some years, and that during that time I wrote different pieces which appeared in Mr. Smith’s Literary Kaleidoscope, and also in the Liverpool Mercury; and Mr. S. may have forgotten that he has more than once complimented me, by saying, that he wished that all his correspondents wrote and composed with the same neatness and care that I did, for he never found it necessary to alter a single word or letter in any of my communications ; this fact also may have slipt his memory, but not mine. And as respects my former friend, Mr. Turmeau, I appeal to your judgment, Mr. Editor, if you can think it at all likely that I should have referred to Mr. Turmeau, if I had not firmly believed that he would have both recollected and confirmed all the circumstances I had therein stated? But if Mr. Turmeau has forgotten that I suggested to him the use of the camera obscura in photogenic drawings, I do hereby most positively assure him, and the whole world, that I did so; and that, without having ever heard of anything of the kind from any person whatever; and whether my memory be better or worse than that of Mr. T. I will not take upon me to say ; but I consider I had more reason to remember these circumstances than Mr. Turmeau had.”

Daguerre’s process
Mechanics’ Magazine, 28 Sept 1839, Vol 31, No. 842, pp. -

Mechanics’ Magazine, 2 November 1839, Vol. 32 (No. 847), p.75

Sir,— I have been for some months past very desirous of sending you a communication on this subject ; but could not spare time, as all my leisure has been devoted to constructing galvanic batteries, and trying experiments on electro-magnetism. But my attention was called back again to the subject of photography, by reading this day in the 845th Number of your valuable Magazine, an account of Dr. Donnι’s discovery; having myself bestowed a good deal of thought and study upon this matter, as may be seen by my former communications, and as the doctor’s method of operating is not described, you will, Mr. Editor, I hope, have the goodness to insert in your interesting journal these few lines containing my ideas and suggestions how the process may be accomplished. It is observable that the silver-coated copper plates, upon which the photogenic drawing has been produced by M. Daguerre’s process, are rendered visible by the fumes of mercury ; it is evident, therefore, that the drawing itself consists of an amalgam of silver and mercury ; so that if it be desired to print impressions from such a plate without actually deepening the drawings with the graver, it will be more properly a photogenic etching, rather than an engraving. In which case we might either make use of such chemical re-agents as would more firmly fix, harden and consolidate the amalgam upon the surface of the metallic plate ; or otherwise, by using such saline, or acid solutions, &c., as having a stronger chemical affinity for the mercury than for the silver, would, without the aid of friction or abrasion cause the amalgam to separate from the silvered surface, leaving in either case, the delineations perfect : so that in one case the impressions might be taken off, as from the lithographic plate drawing, and in the other case, as in printing from an etched or engraved plate ; only that I believe there will be very little depth of line in such photogenic etchings, and that the delineations would soon be worn off the photogenic plates, and moreover, that their principal use will be to transfer correct drawings of the works of art, or of nature to the lithographic stone, whereby they may be multiplied at pleasure. Many persons interested in modern discoveries, and more particularly those connected with the fine arts, will no doubt wait with impatience the time when Doctor Donnι shall think good to make public his methods ; and when he does, I now venture to predict that they will find that this letter contains the substance of his processes.

In conclusion, I beg leave to remark, that the British government holds out no recompense for ingenious inventions and discoveries, and that had I been certain of receiving any benefit or emolument, if even only to half the amount that M. Daguerre has received from the French government, I should many years ago have followed out my course of experiments on photography, and most likely should have forestalled that gentleman in perfecting the discovery ; for when we consider his continual application for some years to that one project, we cannot help thinking he has been very slow in attaining to perfection therein.
I remain, Sir, yours most respectfully,
No.3, Elizabeth-place, Westminster Road.
October 20, 1839.

Mechanics’ Magazine, 2 November 1839, Vol. 32 (No. 847), p.77-78

It has excited some surprise that, after the eager and natural curiosity of the public respecting the discovery of M. Daguerre while it yet remained a secret, so little interest should now be taken in the subject. The truth is, that the public were led to believe that the process was so extremely simple, that once known it could be practised without difficulty — so simple, indeed, that M. Daguerre could not be protected by patent rights, and therefore the French government consented to grant him an annuity. Whereas, without meaning in any way to undervalue the discovery or its important consequences, it now turns out that the process is very delicate and complicated, requiring great skill and care in the manipulator ; and so easily can M. Daguerre protect his interests, that he has had a patent taken out in England in the name of Mr. Miles Berry, of Chancery-lane, not only for the manufacture of the Daguerreotype, but for the use of the instrument. How far such a proceeding was contemplated by the French government — how far it can be justified by the letter of the agreement — how far such a patent can, under the circumstances, be maintained, we must leave others to determine ; we merely state as a fact what has been much and generally disbelieved. Persons, indeed, to whom M. Daguerre was known, and who had read the trumpeting in the foreign journals of the liberality of the French government in making this discovery public for the benefit of the civilized world, could not be persuaded that he was a party to such a proceeding, and therefore addressed a letter to him on the subject ; but his answer, which we now publish, is conclusive :—
“18th Oct. 1839.
“Sir,—In answer to your letter of the 4th instant, respecting the process of the Daguerreotype and the patent obtained in England for the same in the name of Mr. Miles Berry, Chancery-lane, previous to any exhibition thereof in France, I beg to state that it is with my full concurrence that the patent has been so obtained, and that Mr. Miles Berry has full authority to act as he thinks fit under proper legal advice.
“I would add that if you will take the trouble to read attentively the articles of the agreement between me and the French government, you will see that the process has been sold, not to the civilized world, but to the government of France for the benefit of my fellow countrymen.
“I thank you for your good wishes and flattering letter, and with esteem for your high talent as an artist, and desire to have good-will and assistance in England as well as in France, I remain, Sir, your obedient servant, (Signed) “DAGUERRE.”
It is a curious fact, and further illustrative of this extraordinary proceeding, that Daguerreotypes, which cost from 20 l [20 L=20 Pounds]. to 25 l [L]., have been sent direct to this country by manufacturers who profess to pay a commission to M. Daguerre himself ; and yet, though so sold and sent by his own agents, and to his own profit, the parties purchasing must not even use them if these patent rights can be sustained. Mr. Cooper, indeed, at the Polytechnic Institution, has thought it advisable to protect himself by obtaining the sanction of the patentee, by whom Mr. St. Croix, at the Adelaide Gallery, was for a time stopped ; though, under advice, he has now resumed his exhibition. —

Further Research?

A range of biographical information is known about the artist John Turmeau (1774-1845) - enough for him to have a place in the Dictionary of National Biography. Both his father and a son had the same name of John, and were also artists. The grandfather (b 1756), who became known for creating pictures with human hair, lived and worked in London. The son although born in London, moved to Liverpool about 1800, and indeed three generations were established in the city throughout the 19th century. John Turmeau had nine children, one being called John, like his father and grandfather, but his full names being John Caspar Turmeau, and for the sake of clarity can best be called J. C. Turmeau. He was born in 1809, but reached the age of only 25, dying at his father’s house in Liverpool in 1834. This is a date that needs to be taken note of, as well as the fact that although an artist like his father (a miniature and portrait painter), it was as a landscape painter, and he became an architect. Let us look again at what Thomas Oxley stated in his letter in the Mechanics’ Magazine of 9 February 1839: “Mr. Turneau [sic] and myself discussed the matter with so much earnestness as to argue which room in his house would be the best to place the camera, and to try the experiments in. Mr. Turneau then resided in Lord Street, Liverpool, and if he should see this communication it cannot fail to remind him of the whole affair”. Could it have been that his “Mr. Turneau” was not the father, but J. C. Turmeau? As a landscape artist and architect J. C. was more likely to find the camera obscura of use and interest than his father. Indeed Oxley might not have been aware that J.C. had died in 1834. Thus there is certainly a place for confusion on both sides in 1839 about this - enough to devalue the statement by Egerton Smith in 1839 that “Mr. Turmeau has assured me, however, that he never conceived the idea of using the camera obscura in the process, and that he has no recollection of any hint of such appropriation having been suggested by Mr. Oxley”.

Egerton Smith (1774-1841), see an obituary in Liverpool Mercury, 26 November 1841, p. 396. A portrait of him has survived, indeed a painting in oils by John Turmeau, that was engraved shortly after Smith's death. A little about Egerton Smith can also be found in the section concerning Liverpool in part 2 of R. D. Wood's ‘The Diorama in Great Britain in the 1820s’, History of Photography, Autumn 1993 (Vol 17, No.3, pp. 284-295).

But who was Thomas Oxley? The man who wrote the letters to the Mechanics' Magazine in 1839 and who had lived in Liverpool in the 1820s is probably the author, described as "Civil Engineer" of The Celestial Planispheres, or Astronomical Charts published in Liverpool in 1830, a Supplement to which appeared three years later published in London. Also a Thomas Oxley on 22 August 1845 obtained a Patent (No. 10,819) for ‘Constructing and propelling vessels; machinery connected therewith’.

Liverpool is ‘European Capital of Culture for 2008’.

The author of Midley History of Photography has previously described in the article mentioned above on ‘The Diorama in Great Britain’ how Liverpool, with a Diorama Building in Bold Street, was part of that movement in the 1820s and 1830s. The ideas of photography that Thomas Oxley stated in 1839 to have been considered at that earlier period when Daguerre's dioramas were being shown in Liverpool, has remained as unpublished - and incomplete - research. A project proposed by Derek Wood is therefore that maybe in this ‘culture capital’ year of 2008 some progress could be made on investigating Oxley's claims.
If any visitor to this ‘Midley’ website and reader of the above acount of what appeared in the Mechanics’ Magazine can make any contribution to new knowledge and insight into Thomas Oxley, John and J. C. Turmeau, and Egerton Smith, it can be posted here by first contacting Derek Wood via the site [mailform].

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